Historic Finds Along the Los Angeles River

By David J. Barboza

Northeast Los Angeles was once home to a several wholesale bakeries including the dutch-style Van de Kamp’s Bakery (Historic-Cultural Monument #569).

Two SurveyLA reports have come out recently on the Survey Findings portion of our main website. One describes the work survey teams have done in West Adams, Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park. You can get a taste of the findings by reading the cover story in the latest Office of Historic Resources e-newsletter. The other report is for the so-called Northeast Los Angeles River Revitalization Area (let’s call it “NELARRA”).

This map is available on page 5 of historic resources survey report.

The story behind this survey is a bit strange. NELARRA actually isn’t a Community Plan Area like West Adams – Baldwin Hills – Leimert. It’s a former redevelopment area. Before 2011, when California’s budget woes led to legislation that is phasing out redevelopment agencies, RDAs contracted for historic resource surveys in order to figure out how to best harmonize their redevelopment plans with the need to preserve historic places. The NELARRA report was actually done for Los Angeles’ former RDA by Historic Resources Group and Galvin Preservation Associates. Since the surveys were conducted with SurveyLA methodology, it was decided that the results would be incorporated into SurveyLA, so that the same work wouldn’t have to be done twice in Northeast LA.

About half of the historic resources survey report is dedicated to a narrative history of the area from pre-European times to the late twentieth century. In it you can trace the ownership of land from Native Americans to Spanish and Mexican ranchos to American subdivisions. Some of Los Angeles’ oldest neighborhoods are in this area, with surviving buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the buildings survey teams highlighted were Victorian Vernacular Cottages and small Craftsman homes.

This Victorian vernacular cottage with Queen Anne influences was built in 1895, making it one of the earliest surviving buildings in the area.

This Craftsman duplex was built in 1912.

Railroads made their mark on the area early on. Survey teams found surviving streetcar-oriented commercial buildings from the Red Car days. The Taylor Yard was an important force in the area’s development as well. This facility was a major Southern Pacific full-service rail yard for decades, employing about 5,000 people at its peak in the 1950s. The property has since been subdivided and is no longer being used entirely by railroads. Only a single structure remains from this pivotal place in Los Angeles’ industrial development: the Taylor Yard signal tower.

This Mediterranean Revival building from 1929 was built to serve customers arriving by streetcar.

The Taylor Yard signal tower, moved from its original location, is probably the last surviving structure from the massive Southern Pacific railroad yard.

Another of NELARRA’s claims to fame is Lawry’s California Center. The company behind the well-known seasoning salt and a chain of restaurants was based here until 1998, when the Mediterranean-Revival campus became home to the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens.

Lawry’s California Center (1953/60), designed in the Mediterranian Revival style by the firm of Buff, Straub and Hensman with Arthur Lavagnino.

I’ve really only scratched the surface of the report’s findings, so if you want the whole story you’ll have to head over to check it out for yourself. Please don’t forget that SurveyLA teams really benefit when you tip us off to historic places in your neighborhood. Whether you know about a place in Northeast LA or somewhere else in Los Angeles, we hope to hear more of your historic place suggestions as we release more reports in the coming months.

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2 Responses to Historic Finds Along the Los Angeles River

  1. Wonderful photographs! I love the photo of the old Van de Kamp bakery.

    • SurveyLA says:

      Thank you. The LA Public Library photo collection is a great resource for historical photographs, but the credit for most of the photos goes to our field survey teams.

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